Thursday, 5 August 2021
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services (Senator Colbeck) and the Minister for Finance (Senator Birmingham) to questions without notice asked by Senators Keneally and Watt today relating to COVID-19 vaccines.
We all know that Australia and the world are currently in the grip of the worst pandemic we have seen in the world for decades. Australians are being asked to make huge sacrifices right now, particularly those in lockdown areas in Sydney and South-East Queensland but also the millions of other Australians who are suffering economic, mental health and other harm as a result of the pandemic and the government's failure to do its job with vaccines and quarantine.
But, despite the fact that Australians are making huge sacrifices, day after day and night after night we see members of this government running active disinformation campaigns on various social media platforms. The chief offenders, of course, are the member for Dawson, Mr Christensen, and two senators in this chamber, Senator Canavan and Senator Rennick, who day after day and night after night are spreading anti-science, anti-mask and anti-lockdown messages—all sorts of disinformation designed to confuse Australians, to make them doubt the science and to make them doubt the public health orders and the advice that is being given. They do this completely unrestrained by any member of their own government. Earlier this year, this government encouraged the private sector to put in place a voluntary code of conduct on disinformation on social media. But, day after day and night after night, we see members of this government actively promoting disinformation about COVID on a range of social media platforms, and they do this without any action being taken by their own government, which not only has a code of conduct about disinformation on social media but is out there every day encouraging Australians to all do the right thing because we are all in this together.
In question time both today and yesterday, we quoted a couple of examples of Senator Rennick sharing articles that undermine TGA approved COVID vaccines—vaccines which his own government is encouraging Australians to take up. Mr Christensen is promoting views and arguing in social media that we should not be mandating the wearing of masks and we should not be condoning lockdowns, and day after day we see Senator Canavan arguing on social media that we should 'end the lockdowns', amongst many other things.
When these facts are put to Senator Birmingham, representing the Prime Minister, and he is asked what action the government will take, that is the one question that Senator Birmingham will not answer, because the truth is that neither he nor the Prime Minister—nor, for that matter, any member of this government—will take any action against their rogue backbenchers, who are out there running an active disinformation campaign in the Australian public. It's a campaign designed to confuse people, to make people doubt the public health advice that is being given and to run against the government's own policies.